Category: Inspiration

Brain Picking in a Connection Economy

More than ever before, businesses put a high value on connection and collaboration in order to thrive. And we expect information (including advice) to be largely free. This new way of interacting has allowed us to connect in ways that would have been difficult in years past, making it easier now to reach out and ask if you can pick someone’s brain.

I do it. We all do it. But it’s easy to forget that some people make their living problem solving and using strategic thinking. I’m flattered when someone asks to pick my brain because it means they desire my opinion. The key word here is desire. Desiring and valuing are two very different things. We value what we pay for. Giving away too much of your time affects not only you but the people you aim to help, not to mention the people who do end up paying for it.

It’s a challenge to draw the line, especially for do-gooders. Bernadette Jiwa puts it beautifully here why it’s important to value yourself enough to put your energy towards high-impact work. If the goal is to help people, you can’t very well do that if you don’t value your time and expertise. The little dribbles of advice here and there don’t add up to much…for anyone. Read more

The Other Intelligent Design, or Rocks that Rock

I feel entitled, once in a while, to veer of the subject of the business of design and branding to cover one of my two loves—nature and food. Who knows how a rock or a shell or the pattern of seeds inside a cut piece of fruit will wend their way into that magazine layout or logo design? You just trust that what inspires you will work its magic at some point in the future.

Many designers I know are obsessed with rocks. The closest I’ve come to making sense of it is that rocks, with their smoothness, a wild streak of mineral deposit, surface pocked with teeny holes or perfectly oval shape, resemble the best intentionally designed objects, only they are accidents of the magic forces of nature.


Once such place where the forces of nature collide is Ona Beach on the central Oregon coast. Basalt rocks, both teeny and gigantic, have been sculpting this patch of coast for eons, creating an other-worldly landscape. You have to be here at low tide to be rewarded.







Upcycled Eyecandy: The New Keen Store

Needing an antidote to days of focused computer work, I took a partial inspiration day starting with a visit to the new Keen Garage store in Portland’s Pearl district, followed by a trip to the Portland Japanese Garden to see maples dusted with snow. The new, more visible store location allows passersby to visit this sustainable gem of a store that puts to clever use reclaimed materials and objects. The result is a playful, industrial-meets-vintage-meets-upcycled-meets-woodsy environment.

Photo Dec 18, 10 25 33 AM


Repurposed oil drum furniture with cushions made from a patchwork of old car seat fabrics.



No beer sampling since it was only 10 a.m.


One of many charming woodsy installations filled with the popular air plant tsillandia.


Windows and door frames become shelving systems for plants, socks and other merchandise.

Fortunately, I left the store without a dent in my credit card.

It Takes a Real Voice to Give Customers a Voice

Elvis at the mic

Knowing how your customers feel about you benefits you just as much as it does them (assuming you actually make improvements to fit their needs).

You can use that feedback to improve services, promote the results you offer and sharpen your marketing message. But it can also build good will…or not.

The key is being and sounding authentic — actually caring whether someone had a good experience dealing with you.

Recently, I had just such an experience with Voicebox, a karaoke place with personal party rooms. The day after a group of us celebrated a friend’s birthday, I received an email saying I rocked (I like to think I did.) and thanked me for bringing my party there. They like to reward employees for a job well done and asked if I’d like to comment. For an added touch, they included our playlist.

On the other hand, there are companies — whose products I use and like — that send surveys I’m initially happy to fill out, only to feel several pages in that I’m working too hard. The surveys smack of statistic gathering, and worse, a veiled attempt to tell me how great they are given the bias of the questions.

That’s when I quit these surveys and leave feeling worse about the company than I did before.

Two requests for feedback. Two completely different ways of connecting.

Sounding and acting as if you really care is also a good way to share your brand voice through your values. For small companies who remain vexed about what a brand is and how to promote theirs, this is one such tool.

Rock on.

(Image: Kevin Dooley)